Basin Notes - November 2001

Mother Nature's signs of autumn

THE weather seems to be breaking up and the nights are cooler. Autumnal signs include some leaf-fall and change in colour of the horse chestnuts.

A medley of berries - orange-red hips, claret-coloured haws, black and red brambles and jet-black elderberries - are some of the artistic offerings of Mother Nature.

Apples are ripening and pears for storing or seasonal recipes keep housewives busy. "Is there a Bramley in the family?" or "a Cox in the car?"

Ripe plums and fallen fruit can be attractive to butterflies as well as bees or the birds in the garden. In the borders you might have some late flowering perennials to provide some nectar.

Sedum spectabile, osteo-spernum, erigeron and some of the herbs, origanum and lavenders, still give colour and invite the butterflies that are about. Verbascum, as well as in spires of pale yellow, also comes in soft, muted tones of rose and helio.

These changes in the fisheries and conservation measures still leave the fragile native species in a precarious balance.

Dependent on the salmon and sea-trout as their hosts at a juvenile stage are the freshwater mussels, whose life-cycle includes the larval stage over-wintering in the gills of the fish.

Mussels for their part help the fish by filtering the streams, purifying the salmon spawning areas.

Mussels can live to be a hundred years old. The worldwide population of the freshwater mussel is now restricted to 100 rivers - 48 of these being in Scotland.

Restocking these sandy headwaters with native fish may help reverse the fortunes of the freshwater mussel.

The pearl-fishermen are an endangered species too, with the mussel now being protected to conserve the species.

However, at spots such as the Gella Bridge on the South Esk, there are many discarded shells lying around on the banks. "Gella" means a place of bright, or clear, water.